This story is part of an in-depth obituary of Bettye Sue Lord.
One episode in Bettye Lord’s life was depicted in a book and a movie.
“We Were Soldiers Once … and Young” is the title of the book published in 1992 that recounted the first major confrontation involving American troops in the Vietnam War — the bloody Battle of the Ia Drang Valley in 1965 that saw some 230 Americans killed in the first four days and a total of 545 fatally wounded over a six-week campaign.
The best-seller was co-authored by Hal Moore, who was a lieutenant colonel leading a battalion of the 7th Cavalry in the conflict. In 2002, Moore was played by actor Mel Gibson in a popular movie based on the book, with the title shortened to “We Were Soldiers.”
Moore’s unit was based at Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1965. The Lord family was living there at the same time.
A poignant chapter of the book recounts how Moore’s wife, Julie, was troubled when telegrams began to be unceremoniously delivered to families on the base by taxicab drivers, reporting that loved ones had been killed in the Ia Drang Valley.
“The Army’s notification system was really lacking,” says Patrick Lord. “The Army still was doing the World War II and Korean War methods of delivering these notices by taxi. I can vouch that it was disturbingly true because I was old enough to witness it.”
Mrs. Moore stepped in. She arranged with the taxi company to have drivers stop by her house when arriving on base so she could accompany the drivers and offer compassion and consolation as the grim messages were delivered.
“Being a chaplain’s wife, Mom and some of the other wives went along,” Patrick recalls. “Mom told me, ‘If you see a taxicab coming, you come get me!’
“When the book came out and I read it, I was like ‘Wow! They put that in there.’ But when the movie came out, that just about floored me. I about had to get up and leave the theater. Because that’s a childhood experience of mine up there on the screen.”
As a result of the efforts of Mrs. Moore and the other wives to provide more compassionate notification, the Army and other branches of the U.S. military modified the procedure to have tragic news delivered by trained servicemen and women.
And as part of the recent decision to rename several U.S. military installations that had memorialized Confederate leaders of the Civil War era, Fort Benning — originally named after Henry Benning, a Confederate brigadier general — is scheduled to be renamed Fort Moore, honoring Hal and Julie Moore, both of whom are buried in the post’s cemetery.